Brothers Bieksa + Rypien
Bieksa, after all, was Rypien’s best friend.
The two become close during their years in Manitoba, it was Bieksa who pumped Rypien’s tires after Rick’s NHL debut. The energetic forward had also scored his first career goal, not a shock to Bieksa: “A hard worker and his game is buzzing all over, making hits and playing tough.
He might look pretty young, but he just crushes guys and plays fearless.”
Executives with the Manitoba Moose and Vancouver Canucks were aware of Rypien’s condition from the very beginning, and Kevin Bieksa was always only too glad to help his buddy. Said Bieksa this week, “I felt he was as much my responsibility as anybody’s. Looking back now, I wished I’d talked to him a little more in the summer.”
Both organizations kept close tabs on Rypien during his personal leaves, and when Rypien couldn’t be contacted for two weeks during one leave, it was Bieksa who joined then Moose executive Doug Heisinger on a flight to Coleman, Alberta to check up on Rypien and make sure nothing tragic had occured.
When the two found Rypien safe and sound, it was Bieksa who made the long drive back to Vancouver with him.
Similarly, when Rypien sat out the entire 2008-2009 season, it was Bieksa and his wife who took the young man into their home. It was after all the Canucks Bieksa that Rypien had first confided to during the 2008 traing camp about his struggles with anxiety and depression.
Most nights, Rypien and Katie Bieksa would stay up until five in the morning talking.
Whether of the ice or on, Rypien hated to be alone.
The last two conversation the two ever had centred around playing against each other in the upcoming season and the possibility of fighting at centre ice. A week later, Bieksa was a pallbearer at Rypien’s funeral.
So it’s not surprising that Bieksa dropped the gloves with Brandon Dubinsky Tuesday night.
It was after all exactly what Rypien would have wanted, a spirited scrap to get the boys going and put some energy in the building.
It was probably also borne of frustration for being unable to get Ryp the win on his night.
So if Bieksa bobbles the puck this month, makes an ill-advised pinch, or puts himself out of position, be easy on him.
He’s playing with a heavy heart.